Decade in Review : Traxx0
Let's hear it for Holland.
Way back when, around the time of dance music’s infancy, electro was a big deal. A really big deal. The moment passed though, with techno and hip-hop – both of which it helped spawn – surpassing
It was a bland, bastardised version of the originators’ robotic future funk vision that got all the attention
Through the following 15 years, electro remained a plucky underdog, bubbling away in the background, with a small but fiercely dedicated fanbase. And then something strange happened. Electro came back overground again. But – predictably – it was a bland, bastardised version of the originators’ robotic future funk vision that got all the attention. Say it with me: electroclash. In the 00s, for real electro, there was nothing to do but head back underground.
(A significant – and tragic – landmark was the death in 2002 of Drexciya's James Stinson, arguably the most important and influential Electro artist of the last 20 years.)
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In terms of Italo, the renaissance began one year before the millennium. In 1999, Dutch DJ I-f released a mix CD titled 'Mixed Up In The Hague', which pretty much single-handedly introduced (or reminded) many of one of dance music's most cultish genres, Italo disco. Over the course of the last 10 years a small group of mainly Dutch artists segued the naive synth work of Italo with the syncopated, funky beats of electro to create this decade’s most exciting variance on the genre. Producers such as Alden Tyrell, Mr Pauli and Legowelt all produced classic underground anthems that stole from the old while genuinely creating the new.
Dutch artists segued the naive synth work of Italo with the syncopated, funky beats of electro to create this decade’s most exciting variance on the genre
The abrasive end of electro that came to prominence in the mid-90s ended up in something of a creative cul-de-sac, though honourable mentions should go to Gosub, Dynarec, Rude 66 and Decal, who still found ways of exciting us. The odd thing is, much of this music was released on a clutch of small labels, all based in Holland. How one small-ish country ends pretty much owning a genre for a decade is a truly bizarre thing. But seeing as many there felt an affinity with the cities of Detroit and Chicago it's maybe not that surprising after all.
Underground to overground and back again - electro will still be here in another 10 years. And ,yes, the beats will still sound out of sync and all confusing n' stuff.
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Alden Tyrell ‘Disco Lunar Module’ [Clone] 2004
Three huge - and I mean HUGE - dancefloor stompers from one of the decade's most consistently brilliant producers. Skyscraping melodies and drums that would make yer gran get on the floor.
Mr De' ‘Electrofunkysh*t’ [ElectroFunk Records] 2002
Mr Mainer crams in P-funk, blaxploitation, electro, hip hop and some naughty, naughty lyrics into one rude beast of a 12". He told us to 'Give it up', so that's what we did.
Model 500 ‘Outer Space’ [Metroplex] 2004
"I have been transported into a space and time..." If you were willing to be transported with Mr Atkins, you entered a world where brutal, shuddering electro ruled the airwaves. Arguably his most under-rated release. Not for the faint-hearted.
E.R.P. ‘Alsoran’ [Frantic Flowers] 2007
Not many producers in this decade have generated such feverish obsession from listeners as Gerard Hanson. You could split hairs over which E.R.P. release makes the list but ‘Lament Subrosa’ is possibly his most achingly beautiful piece of music.
Legowelt ‘Pimpshifter’ [Bunker] 2000
Everyone got in a tizzy over Disco Route but you can pretty much take any of the six tracks off this and they'll match it or beat it. Disco, electro, horror soundtracks and analogue synths all melded into a spellbinding debut.
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The Other People Place ‘Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe’ [Warp] 2001
One of James Stinson's final releases, this is not just one of the finest electro albums of the decade, but of any genre in any decade. Deceptively calm and light on first inspection, it's the aural equivalent of watching a perfect sunset. On mild acid. The work of a genius at the top of his game.
Arpanet ‘Wireless Internet’ [Record Makers] 2002
Spine-tingling ambient tracks sit side-by-side with dark, minimal electro and talk of communicating without wires. Dopplereffekt may have gotten all the notices but this is where Gerald Donald truly shone. Just don't expect to dance.
Gosub ‘Watchers From A Black Universe’ [Citinite] 2007
After a series of excellent singles, Shad T Scott put together the strongest electro album of the last few years. The obvious influences are on show here but it shimmers with so much class and funk you won't care.
Alden Tyrell ‘Times Like These’ [Clone] 2006
At times a strange compilation - the originals of 'Hills of Honolulu' and 'Love Explosion' are superior to the versions here - but it's still the one stop shop for all things Tyrell.
The Parallex Corporation ‘Cocadisco’ [Viewlexx] 2002
I-f and Intergalactic Gary may be more famous for their djing than production but this was a sterling fusion of disco and electro. Has been ripped off badly more times than it's worth thinking about.
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Clone You could split Clone up into its numerous sub-labels and breakaway imprints and get a top five out of them alone. Even though you mightn't be aware of it, there is at least one Clone release from over the years that you thought was the shit.
Flexx/Radius A two-in-one here – they co-released and also served the same purpose; to release new Italo disco flavoured artists and, most importantly, re-issue some classics from its 80's heyday. They were putting out reasonably priced, official re-issues before it became cool, meaning new blood could get a hold of some super rare 12's without having to pay through the nose. Collectors be damned!
While it can be a little hit and miss - as is often the case with prolific labels - it's got a roster of talent that most labels would bend over backwards to have. Be it Detroit electro, weird psuedo horror soundtracks, classic house re-issues, italo-disco or throbbing Chicago acid, it's all contained in here. Extra kudos for having some of the most original, bizarre and brilliant label art of the decade.
Has been lying low for a while now - possibly as the releases were getting a little bit stale - but in the early- to middle-years of the decade, this New York stamp was responsible for putting out some of the best electro artists of the time, including Decal, Silicon Scally and Exzact.
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A cult figure for much of the decade, as it came to a close the rest of the world finally took notice. Raw, emotional house and techno that truly sounded like no one else. His FXHE label not only delivered his own classics but introduced the world to Kyle Hall, Luke Hess, Jus Ed and M. Pittman. Not bad going. His penchant for irritating people by simply not giving a fuck about anyone else was hilarious too. Underground and independent to the last.
Ping Pong Techno
I'm not going to give it the dignity of calling it minimal techno. Somewhere around the middle of the decade a bunch of shit, funk-less producers and DJs discovered that no one cared about their banging loopy techno any more so decided it was time to create the most insipid, bland and DULL AS FUCK dance music of the decade. It was mainly comprised of effects that sounded like two handicapped cows trying to play a game of table tennis with the flattest kick drum ever backing them up. A whole genre made up of filler tracks. No wonder everyone resorted to taking Ketamine.